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375 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 175A LONDON, 14 December 1944, 9.10 p.m.


Following for the Prime Minister.

British Ambassador to Russia. Reference my immediately preceding telegram. [1]

I asked Clark Kerr about the Soviet's attitude towards international co-operation and he said very strongly that he was certain they wanted to play. He admitted there had been many episodes which might have created a doubt. These, however, were only 'boyish outbursts' as the Russians were really very immature.

They had made innumerable mistakes, for example, their attitude with regard to allowing aeroplanes dropping supplies on Warsaw to land in Russia, the attack on the Vatican, the attempt to raise a storm over Hess [2], and the Persian oil policy. In each case he had told them frankly that they were being stupid and eventually they had been ashamed of themselves and withdrawn from the position they had taken up. Being, however, still very adolescent they were never prepared to admit that they had been wrong. Their climb down in the case of the Warsaw incident had been effected in a mere two lines of a long letter Molotov [3] had written him on another subject.

With regard to the Dumbarton Oaks, he said he was certain the Russians were in favour of proposals being put through as witness Stalin's latest speech when he had directly commended them. This speech was the most satisfactory utterance we had had from Stalin.

Regarding the veto question, Clark Kerr said he had considerable sympathy with the Russian point of view which he summarised as being:

'If we are going to have co-operation between the great nations, it must be on the basis of complete confidence. The point with regard to the veto showed clearly that the confidence was not there, but there was suspicion of somebody. The Russians put it that it was obvious that suspicion was directed against them.'

I told Clark Kerr that our view was also one of considerable sympathy with the Russians and strongly emphasised this down the lines I had previously employed with Eden and Cadogan.

When Clark Kerr left me he was going straight to see Eden regarding Soviet-Japanese relations. Clark Kerr said that while he attached no special significance to the sending of Voroshilov [4] to Siberia he was quite sure that Russia would ultimately declare war on Japan, and stressed the significance of Stalin's reference to Japan as an aggressor, such he would never have done two years ago. He gave as his reason for Soviet entry in the Far East war that they would not be content to leave the settlement to Great Britain and America.

When I put Hornbeck's [5] point (my telegram N.12 [6]) that it was unnecessary for Russia to come into the war for that purpose as she had already earned the right to a voice in the settlement, he rather weakened on this point. He said that the critical time would be just prior to the expiration of four years' period of the Russo-Japanese agreement.

China Having just arrived in England Clark Kerr had not yet heard of Chiang Kai Shek's [7] retirement from the presidency of Yuan. He said that it was most significant. He accepted the view that it was probably due to the necessity for Chiang to get rid of the multiplicity of detail he was enmeshed in and devote his time to military situation. It was of the greatest significance that Soong [8] had succeeded him as Kung [9] had managed to suppress Soong over a very long period. He hoped that the second Chen brother would rapidly follow the first out of the Cabinet. [10] He said that serious as the position was in China there was some hope that the combination of Chiang and Wedemeyer [11] might effect an improvement. Nevertheless, he expressed considerable regard for Stilwell. [12]

The Balkans He said the difficulties in Roumania and Bulgaria were due more to the 'boyish immaturity' of the Soviet than to viciousness. He did not think that the Russians had been, or had any intention of, meddling in the Greek pie.

In the course of the conversation Clark Kerr said he was looking round for his successor but I put it very strongly to him that there could be no question of a successor until at least the European war was over and at least the foundations had been laid for Russian co-operation in the post war years. In my view Clark Kerr has done admirable work in Russia and it is essential he should continue it.


1 Cablegram 174A, dispatched 14 December. On file AA:A989, 44/715/5/2, iii. It reported a conversation on Poland between Bruce and Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, U.K. Ambassador to the Soviet Union.

2 i.e. Rudolf Hess, German former Deputy Fuhrer, then interned in the United Kingdom.

3 Soviet Foreign Minister.

4 Soviet Politbureau member and, until late 1944, member of the State Committee of Defence.

5 Special Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of State.

6 Dispatched 6 December. On file AA:A816, 146/301/3.

7 Chinese President and, until 4 December, President of the Executive Yuan.

8 T. V. Soong, Chinese Foreign Minister and, from 4 December, President of the Executive Yuan.

9 H. H. Kung, Chinese Finance Minister until 20 November.

10 Presumably a reference to General Chen Cheng, appointed Chinese Minister of War on 20 November and Chen Li-fu who was replaced as Minister of Education and became Minister of Organisation on the same day.

11 Commander, U.S. Forces in China, having succeeded Stilwell in November.

12 Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, South-East Asia Command; Chief of Staff to Chiang Kai-shek and commander of American-Chinese forces in northern Burma until November.

[AA:A989, 44/735/765/3]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History